Dragon decorations: Guardians of Forbidden City

A bronze dragon carving at the courtyard of Chuxiu Gong [Photo by Gu Caihua/cpanet.org.cn]

In traditional Chinese culture, the dragon has long been regarded as a symbol of auspiciousness, power and mystery. Among the rich legacies of Chinese history, the dragon totems in the Forbidden City are undoubtedly a captivating presence.

The Forbidden City, a magnificent architectural complex known as the “treasure of China”, was once the royal palace of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, and it stands as the world’s largest and most complete existing ancient wooden structure architectural complex. As one of the most important cultural totems in China, the dragon has always been a symbol of good fortune. In the Forbidden City, the dragons, whether hovering in the sky, leaping between beams, or hidden in the details, all narrate ancient stories.

In each corner of the Forbidden City, lifelike dragons in various shapes can be seen, showcasing not only exquisite craftsmanship, but also carrying deep historical and cultural connotations.

According to photographer Gu Caihua, those dragons perching on the roofs seem to be guarding the ancient palaces, while those dragons inlaid on beams appear to be telling the vicissitudes of history. These dragons are not merely decorations; they carry the essence of Chinese culture.